It’s the early a.m. here and quiet as a tomb. That silence lends opportunity to think.
I’m pondering the state of the American Church. But then, I never stop.
We live in a world coming apart at the seams. Some say that’s not the case, but as I see it, the deterioration is clear. I wonder regularly how it is that all sense is missing from whichever brouhaha holds our attention this day.
It may not be much on the grander scale, but the fiasco surrounding last week’s notorious conference makes it clear genuine Christians must pray this:
Lord, purge Your Church.
If the Church in America is to have any influence at all on the larger culture and society of the United States, the dross must be removed.
Pray also that you are not the dross.
At this point in 2013, I’m fully convinced that the American Church is thinking too far ahead of itself if it continues to believe it can have such an influence. While the gates of hell cannot hold against the Church as a whole, no assurance is given for any one branch:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
—Revelation 2:1-5 ESV
We could point to the vitality of the Ephesian Church and its contemporary influence on the world—if it were still around. But the Lord removed that Church’s lampstand and the light went out.
The American Church is at the lampstand-removal phase, if it hasn’t happened already. An opportunity to repent may still exist, but I wonder if it must come down to something more drastic than repentance.
Lord, purge Your Church.
18 thoughts on “Lord, Purge Your Church”
Indeed. The church has too much time and money on our hands and we have become flaccid and lazy, dangerously comfortable within the cozy cultural cocoon of American civil religion. A day of reckoning is soon at hand and the defenders of the religious status quo are in for a rude awakening. I think this will be healthy for the church, my only concern is that the church is ill-equipped and unprepared for ministry in a culture that is truly hostile to the church because the true Gospel will finally be on display.
I harbor no pretenses concerning the authority I might have outside this little blog, but I have been arguing for preparation since 2003. That call has gone unheeded. We are all reaction in the Western Church, with no effort made to prepare for tomorrow: http://ceruleansanctum.com/2006/07/the-church-of-tomorrow-what-tomorrow.html .
The church needs to disentangle itself from political parties, public protests and government involvement. Many American Christians think they are serving God by protesting this or that or giving support to some organization that seeks to influence the government.
We need to stop and take a look at what Jesus called us to do. Our mission is very pure and simple. Love, serve, and give about wraps it up.
Disentangle, yes. Disengage–well, not yet. The Church still needs to speak to government and interact with it. Considering the government the answer to everything is where we stumble. I think evangelicals are starting to wake up in that regard (finally!), but the mainline churches are near-mouthpieces for the government anymore.
Thanks for having the courage to call this. The emperor has few clothes left, but sadly the vast majority seem to be blind to the reality.
I think we need to consider losing people. In this consumerist age of church growth and numbers, that’s anathema. We need to rethink that. Yes, go after the lost sheep, but if that lost sheep prefers to stay lost, then we need to move on. Keep the door open, but move on.
Dan, I completely agree. If not losing people, then at least not trying so hard to attract them (which is often done with anything but the gospel).
I think the evangelical church has fallen lock, stock and barrel for the lie that it’s all about church growth (when actually, it should be all about discipleship). I recently wrote a short post about this: http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/the-church-growth-conundrum/
When Bill Hybels noted a few years ago that Willow Creek’s discipleship model (which it had been selling to other churches) was not creating lasting disciples, the entire Church Growth Movement died. It’s just that the corpse hasn’t toppled over yet.
You want to talk about a zombie apocalypse? How is it that many churches are still jumping on-board that model? While there is absolutely no doubt it works for the short term, the long term results are not good. I think our churches have become too much like big business in that they look at short-term profits to please the shareholders, but as for 25 years out, who cares? Sadly, the sour fruit of that thinking is everywhere.
I was aware of the Willow study, but not sure what real impact (if any) it had over here in the UK. In fact, I wasn’t sure what real impact it had in the US. I mean, perhaps leaders were forced to acknowledge its findings, but has it made much actual, practical difference to the way many churches operate and what they prioritise? Your second paragraph suggests otherwise. The emperor’s clothes have been removed, but he’s still strutting around quite happily in the buff…
I read your post you linked to in your comment to Arthur. ‘What tomorrow?’ It seems that a lot of thinking about tommorrow is being forsaken in our current world circumstances and in our culture here in North America. For example, huge national debt. Need more money? Make more. ‘If we don’t make more money the economy will collapse and life as we know it will be gone’.
Environmental concerns are being abandoned in favor of ‘economy’. It’s almost like we are on the last leg (so to speak) and many know it or sense it in the world. World scientists are predicting serious consequences to the earth within a short period of time if major changes are not made to the way we live. Particularly our carbon footprint.
Perhaps the church would do well to have a sense of urgency. Godly urgency. The time left may be short.
The lack of prep startles me. Even now, I don’t hear most church leaders asking what will happen in the government decides to end the “gift” of property tax exemption. If our debt issues and unemployment don’t improve, money has to come from someplace. And cash-starved communities will eye that multi-million-dollar megachurch on 50 acres of prime real estate and start getting ideas.
I think I’ll see this happen in my lifetime. Which megachurch is prepared to pay a hefty sum in property taxes each year?
I have often said, “The church must change–or die”. Everyone who hears me looks at me like a crazy man. I don’t for one minute believe that the Church will die. Therefore, I am certain that change will come! The organizations, the buildings on the the street corner, those may well die. In fact, I believe that too soon, it will be dangerous and hazardous to your income or career to be associated with the Name of Jesus, even here, even in America. I don’t look forward to it, but I am preparing for it as I re-focus and come to understand what God would both ask and expect of me should those times come.
It helps remove the dross, the clap-trap of churchianity when visualized this way. I am firmly convinced that many are being prepared for this by the Spirit. It is we who will minister to our fellow believers who are adrift and perplexed, it is we who will be able to speak the words of Truth and Hope to a generation who will be asking seriously. It’s not just yet, but soon…
Die entirely? No way.
Lose a lampstand? That has already happened. And when it does, a church so affected resorts to man-made solutions. Sound familiar?
Totally familiar! No, to the die entirely. That was my point. Of course it won’t die, I tell them— but it will change! All too many folks can’t conceive of things changing, it’s the human condition, but change comes anyway.
Dan: “The American Church is at the lampstand-removal phase…”
Wow, Dan, you are at your direst. Are you sure of this?
Did something in particular, that was especially grievous, recently happen to provoke such a cry of anguish?
I see and hear more cases of things going wrong than things getting better. I wish that were reversed.
We see the example in the Bible of King Saul. He was anointed for kingship as God commanded Samuel. At the first, Saul walked with God. He listened to the advice of Samuel. He obeyed God. Then like you are saying in your comment above to Heartspeak, precarious circumstances are occuring to Saul. Samuel appears to be late to bless the army. Warriors are deserting Saul. Saul sees and envisions defeat. He takes matters into his own hands. His own human insufficient wisdom. The result is that he ends up disobeying God, disobeying Samuel, and loses his position in God. Samuel declares to Saul that God has removed his ‘ministry’ from him. David is then annointed as king. A man after God’s own heart.
The Bible says that we can use these scriptures for teaching and admonition. Any ministry can start out with God and then end up in the flesh because of circumstances or matters that are not going the way leaders or the ministry wants them to. There seems to be no patience to wait for God. Just like Saul. They say to themselves and others, ‘We need to do something about this situation (ourselves) and so, here’s what I’m thinking’.
Sometimes ministry may feel like they are forgotten by God. It seems like nothing will happen. We need to be patient and wait on God.
As a personal example of what I am trying to say in my comment above about waiting on God. I found myself in a debilitating condition after June of this year. I was burnt out. I couldn’t function. My son had to come down from Edmonton to help me pay my bills. I couldn’t touch them. I left my yard unkempt all summer. I was unable to do much of anything that required responsibility. The legal case was a big factor in my negative energy territory. I went for counselling when it became apparent to me that I was in trouble.
That same long weekend in September I received a refreshing as you said that you did that weekend also. I felt a spurt of energy. I was able to do some things. Cut my grass, do some housecleaning, etc. During September I asked God to provide some kind of sign or someway to show me when I was ready to try working again. It took all of October. I had forgotten what I had prayed to God about a sign. Today, I got a call from a school district. They are really interested in me. The human resources department is going to distribute my resume to several school principals. I will hear next week about an interview.
My point being, I wasnt’ sure what to do. Should I try going back to work and maybe fail because I’m not ready emotionally? Should I stay home and rest another month? God appears to be opening a door for me to work again. NOW I can take action.
talk to you later.